Johnball Nationals ’13: You’re Invited

Posted by on May 4, 2013 in Featured Posts, Letters

Info Flyer for outdoor group event at Nelson Dewey State Park in Wisconsin. Art, design by Duy Vu


To all who are true believers in friendship, sportsmanship, sheer fun, and Johnball, I would like to extend the following invitation:


Every last one of you are cordially yet aggressively invited to Johnball Nationals ’13, an event that could very well be the most magnificent time of your life. It’ll be a weekend of camping and Johnball, attended by Johnballers from sea to shining sea. Come to strengthen friendships new and old, come to experience the majestic splendor of  the Wisconsinite wilderness, come to play Johnball in an environment where the game (and all it stands for) will be endlessly greeted by hoorays and huzzahs.


The rest of the Johnball world is waiting to meet you.


Nelson Dewey State Park, WI. Some true deepfun playing an invented madeup game with vinyl rubber balls and plastic bats.

Date: Weekend of July 12-14

Location: Nelson Dewey State Park, WI

Wisconsin State Park Maps, public

“If there is a place you got to go, I am the one you need to know. I’m the map!”
-Map from “Dora the Explorer”


The Set-Up: A Weekend You Wouldn’t Have Dared to Dream Of

We’ll be playing Johnball– and plenty of it. All of us will take up arms alongside old friends and new faces alike in an organized-but-flexible schedule of fun and games. Many different gametypes will be played- including some that have never before been played. And we’ll be sure to divulge ourselves a bit in some of Johnballer’s wackier gametypes (Fashion Wars, The Nutty Professor… anything’s possible.)

Don’t fret; you won’t be drilled to death playing nonstop Johnball. Ample time will be put aside for relaxing and socializing. You’ll also have plenty o’ opportunities for pickup games, all sorts of outdoor recreation, as well as general friendship-strengthening and merrymaking. So don’t forget your frisbee, football, playing cards, guitars– whatever you believe fits the setting.

I recall a carload from Minneapolis bringing an inflatable dinosaur last year. And I can’t tell you why, but I thought that was one of the coolest things.


Taking a siesta from all the Johnballing. Starring Zachary Raden, Cody Troop, Greg Pokorny, and Dana Schumann.



The idea is have Johnball Nationals be a super low-cost expedition. And I believe we’ve absolutely succeeded with that. The following are the only costs you’ll need to account for:

    • $10 per person to help cover reservation costs, payable to John Hilsen. (No need for payment in advance.)
    • $19.40 per vehicle for two nights’ worth of a vehicle sticker, according to Wisconsin State Parks laws. You’ll pay this to the park staff upon entering Nelson Dewey.


And that’s really it. Of course, you and your group are responsible for your own food, transportation costs, and camping equipment.



Who is this event for?

Everyone who loves friendship, sportsmanship, and Johnball are warmly welcomed. Women and men, old and young. If you think this weekend sounds like an absolutely dynamite experience, then you’ll fit right in. Don’t be afraid of coming to Nelson Dewey even if you a relatively short history with the sport. This certainly isn’t an “elite Johnball players only” event by any means (I don’t think there even is such a thing as an elite Johnball player). The weekend is simply an awesome opportunity to enjoy Johnball to the fullest.

Starring Adam Kunkel, Michael Rogers, Wade Kohls, John Hilsen




How many people will be in attendance?

It could be 12. And it could be 82. Endless fun will be had regardless of the numbers. That’s just the way Johnball seems to work.



Awards & Prizes: What We Choose to Honor

Wins and losses do not matter in Johnball. What matters is how we play the game. Johnball always calls to be played with a love for high-spirited fun.  As such, starting this year, there will not be a single award given out for winning games. Instead, every single award will be decided by your votes. The accolades will be given out in a closing ceremony Saturday night, and they’ll be awards that all of us are capable of attaining. Some award categories include:

  • Best Sportsmanship
  • The Samwise Gamgee Friendship Award
  • Most Outrageous Teamwork
  • Most Spectacular Outfit
  • Great Snakes! Most Incredible Battle Moves
Honor virtues, not winning.

Last year, Kevin O’Brien of Minneapolis received the “Best Honesty” award.

As you can see, you’d be amiss if you came to Nationals with a desire to conquer the playing field with anything other than honesty, sportmanship, friendship, courage, and heart– the necessary  ingredients to the tasty pasta salad we call Johnball.


Sponsor an Award

Everyone is encouraged to sponsor their own award category. All you have to do is come up with a category and bring a corresponding prize to hand out. Your prize could be anything- but no need to make it fancy. You could decorate a Johnball bat, buy something easy like candy or a gift card, or get a humorous object from your local dollar store or secondhand shop. Feel free to exercise any amount of absurdity with both your award category and prize.

This is a very fun tradition of Johnball Nationals and, again, I highly encourage your participation. Feel free to contact me directly if you have a splendid idea or are completely lost for ideas. My e-mail is and I’d love to help out. (While we’re at it, please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.)


Camping and the sporting life in the great outdoors. Nice big tent you got there, Cody Troop.


Campsites & Arrival

Upon entering Nelson Dewey, you’ll be looking for the group campsites- all of them which have been reserved for Johnball (campsites #97, 98, and 99.) Check-in and check-out times are 3:30 PM– try to get there on Friday not too late after that.

These group campsites are equipped with clean running water, water fountains, and toilets. Electrical outlets are also available.  Showers are nearby.

The good news: we have tons of space booked for us. It’ll be like our own colony for a weekend. The bad news: the facilities do not include laser tag arenas or water slides.


Opening Banquet Potluck

New this year: We’ll be having a communal dinner on our first night, so bring something to share! The eating of foodstuffs will commence at 7:00 PM. It’ll be an occasion to meet some of the other johnballers of the world while stuffing your face.

And how much food/drinks should you bring, you ask? However much you want.

Camping games in the wisconsin wilderness. The American's response to Quiditch.

The more food you bring to the opening night potluck, the more you’ll fuel awe-inspiring Johnball combat.


Just Some More Words

Last year’s Nationals was one of the greatest weekends of my life. I can say that with complete honesty. And I heard the same thing again and again from many of you that were able to make it. What we have before us is an assured set-up for an absolutely dynamite time. Nothing but pure delight, really. All of us will be able to meet incredible people and have a weekend that really belongs to us. Adam Kunkel described Nationals by saying, “I’ve never felt so close to dozens of people I’ve never met.”

I’d be surprised if you didn’t end up feeling the same.


Crackling fire during a weekend of camping with friends. Classic outdoor recreation and leisure. Smoked weenies, yep.

Johnball Nationals ’13: I eagerly look forward to seeing you there. Don’t forget the bug spray.

(And in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for any reason at )







About the Author: John Hilsen created Johnball alongside close friend William Bird in 2005. He currently calls Lakeville, MN his home and picked Nelson Dewey as the location for Johnball Nationals because he has reeeaally convincing evidence that it’s the true location of the Fountain of Youth.




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